Iowa Youth Writing Project raises $4,275 for low-income students

A K-12 program by the Iowa Youth Writing Project will provide its students snacks and writing supplies at no expense.


Ryan Adams

Photo Illustration by Ryan Adams

Grace Culbertson, News Reporter

The Iowa Youth Writing Project recently raised thousands of dollars for a new program that will cover the cost of supplies such as snacks, backpacks, notebooks, and writing utensils for its students. 

The Iowa Youth Writing Project raised $4,275 from 61 donors last month. The fundraiser, “Fueling the Fire,” initially set a goal of $4,000. 

Led by University of Iowa students, graduates of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and community members, the organization helps K-12 students express themselves outside of class while learning valuable writing skills, said Jane Huffman, Iowa Youth Writing Project Grants and Funding Manager.

Project leaders have found that the snacks provided during the school year and summer programs allow students who may have food insecurity at home access to extra nutrients, she said.

“The [Iowa Youth Writing Project] seeks to serve in-need students,” Huffman said. “Although everyone is welcome, we do reach students in schools that serve lower income and students experiencing marginalization. We just like to make sure that when students engage with our summer camps that they are given something to eat during the four hours they are with us.” 

Throughout the school week, Iowa Youth Writing Project travels to upwards of 20 different schools and works with more than 200 students, Huffman said. 

Since the project aims to serve students in need, Huffman said, these workshops come at no charge for the attendees, and the program looks to donors for support.

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UI senior Cailyn Snodgrass, a developmental intern at the organization, said she worked on this fundraiser over the summer, revamping the promotional materials and reaching out to friends and family for donations.

“[The fundraiser] means everything [to the kids],” Snodgrass said. “We are alive, and we are a thriving organization because of our donors. Even just $10 makes such a difference. We are able to ensure that we are bringing these children quality materials and quality lesson plans taught by quality people.” 

Iowa Youth Writing Project used the UI’s crowdfunding site, GOLDrush, to collect the donations — most of which came from family and friends of the fundraising team, Huffman said. 

The organization was founded in 2010 but only became officially associated with the UI and Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing last year.  

Daniel Khalastchi, director of the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing, said the collaboration between his organization and the Iowa Youth Writing Project is mutually beneficial for both parties. 

The Iowa Youth Writing Project hosts two UI classes where students can lead the after-school workshops, which Khalatschi said connects UI undergraduates with their writing community. 

“It also provides our community with kind, caring, smart students that can grow and learn with them,” Khalastchi said. “Writing in Community Outreach is a core course for the gen-ed Diversity and Inclusion, and that’s been really exciting, because that allows folks who have never engaged in community outreach before to get that experience.”

Khalatschi said his program has always wanted to connect undergraduates with the community, and the Iowa Youth Writing Project is the bridge it needed.

While that connection allows for opportunities by undergraduate volunteers and the Iowa Youth Writing Project, the organization relies solely on donors and connections with local companies to fund its budget, Huffman said.

“Our students wouldn’t have access to resources that they now will because of [the fundraiser],” Huffman said. “We are very small with a huge impact. We have two to five employees and 200 volunteers. Without those writing kits and snacks, our workshops wouldn’t be nearly as vibrant and productive.”